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Keen interest in Namibia’s green hydrogen gambit

Publish date: 10 June 2024
Issue Number: 1080
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Energy

King Philippe of Belgium inaugurate a project on the edge of the Namib desert that aims to help decarbonise European industry, and which might just enable one of Africa’s smallest economies to hit the clean-energy big time. A Moneyweb analysis notes that the monarch, who was hosted by President Nangolo Mbumba at the unfinished site near the port of Walvis Bay, was just the latest in a string of European dignitaries to buy into Namibia’s grandiose plans to become a hub for what’s known as green hydrogen. It’s a technology whose critics say is a commercial illusion, but whose political and corporate backers believe may be the answer to cleaner shipping and heavy industry. ‘We are really very committed in this hydrogen and green hydrogen journey,’ Belgian Energy Minister Tinne van der Straeten said in an interview at the site of the project, known as Cleanergy Solutions. From modest beginnings, Namibia is banking on a whole new supply chain taking shape – from the production of hydrogen that’s turned into ammonia for transportation to associated ‘green’ products – that would place it at the forefront of a developing clean technology and finally put it on the map.

Europe, for its part, sees a means of furthering its green transition and bolstering energy security after it lost natural gas from Russia. The European Investment Bank has pledged a €500m loan toward developing green hydrogen in Namibia, with the Netherlands’s Invest International contributing to a planned $1bnNamibian hydrogen fund. Moneyweb notes that Cleanergy, a venture between Antwerp-based shipping company Compagnie Maritime Belge SA (CMB) and local firm Ohlthaver & List Group, will be Namibia’s first commercial green hydrogen plant. Built at a cost of $30m, partly funded by a $10m loan from the German government, it’s just the start: CMB intends to raise $3.5bn to build an ammonia plant that would connect to a new storage and export facility planned by the Port of Antwerp-Bruges. ‘Our customers are asking us to clean up our act to make sure that we don’t emit CO2 anymore, so we need to find an alternative for diesel,’ said CMB CEO Alexander Saverys, explaining the nearly 130-year-old company’s decision to get into green hydrogen. The southwest African nation has the world’s best solar potential, according to a World Bank study, and its abundant land is largely owned by the government, which backs the industry’s development. If Namibia’s green hydrogen gambit does pay off, it could foster decades of development. And Namibia needs development wherever it can get it, according to Trevino Forbes, the mayor of Walvis Bay. The goal has to be ‘to capitalise on this resource of ours,’ he said.

Full Moneyweb analysis

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